By MARK KENNEDY
Tony Award-winning composer Jerry Herman, who wrote cheerful and cheerful music and lyrics for classic shows like “Mame”, “Hello, Dolly!” And “La Cage aux Folles”, has died Thursday. He was 88 years old.
His goddaughter Jane Dorian confirmed his death to the Associated Press on Friday. He died of pulmonary complications in Miami, where he lived with his partner, real estate broker Terry Marler.
Creator of 10 Broadway shows and contributor to several others, Herman won two Tony Awards for best musical: “Hello, Dolly!” In 1964 and “La Cage aux Folles” in 1983. He also won two Grammys – for the “Mame” casting album and “Hello, Dolly!” as song of the year – and was a winner of the Kennedy Center. He had three original Broadway productions playing at the same time from February 1969 to May 1969.
Tributes were paid by Broadway royalty on Friday, including Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book “La Cage aux Folles” alongside Herman’s songs. “We lost one of the big guys,” Fierstein tweeted. “Collaborator and friend for almost 40 years. I cannot thank him enough for his love, confidence, encouragement, support and laughter. “
Herman wrote in the tradition Rodgers and Hammerstein, an optimistic composer at a time when other members of his profession were exploring darker feelings and materials. Only a few of his song titles revealed his depth of hope: “I’ll be here tomorrow”, “The best of times”, “Tap your problems away”, “It’s today”, “We have need a little Christmas “and” Before the parade passes. Even the title song from “Hello, Dolly!” Is an advertisement to enjoy life.
Herman also had a direct and simple sense of melody and his lyrics had a natural and not forced quality. Over the years, he told the AP in 1995, “the critics sort of dismissed me as the popular writer, not the brain writer, and that suited me perfectly. This is exactly what I was aiming for. “
In accepting Tony in 1984 for “La Cage Aux Folles”, Herman declared: “This prize forever shatters a myth about musical theater. There has been a rumor for a few years that the simple and humble song was no longer welcome on Broadway. Well, it’s alive and well at the Palace Theater.
Some have seen this phrase – “the simple and hummable melody” – as a subtle dig in Stephen Sondheim, known for his complex and difficult songs and whose “Sunday in the Park with George” Herman had just beaten. But Herman rejected any tension between the two giants of musical theater.
“Only a small group of” showbiz gossip “constantly tried to create a quarrel between Mr. Sondheim and myself. I’m as much a Sondheim fan as you and everyone else in the world, and I think my comments after winning the Tony for ‘The Cage’ clearly came from my pleasure with the endorsement by the show business community from the simple melodic showtune that had been criticized by some hard-nosed critics for being old-fashioned, “he said during a question and answer session with Broadway.com readers in 2004.
Herman was born in New York in 1931 and raised in Jersey City. His parents ran a children’s summer camp in the Catskills and he learned the piano himself. He noted that when he was born, his mother had a view of the marquee at the Winter Garden Theater on Broadway from her hospital bed.
Herman dated his intention to write musicals when his parents took him to “Annie Get Your Gun” and he went home and played five of the Irving Berlin songs on the piano.
“I thought what a gift this man gave to a stranger. I wanted to give this gift to other people. It was my big inspiration that night, “he told the Associated Press in 1996.
After graduating from the University of Miami, Herman returned to New York, where he wrote and played the piano at a jazz club. He made his Broadway debut in 1960 contributing songs to the review “From A to Z” – alongside material by Fred Ebb and Woody Allen – and the following year tackled the entire score for a musical on the founding of the State of Israel, “Milk and Honey.” This earned him his first Tony appointment.
“Hello, Dolly!” With Carol Channing opened in 1964 and ran for 2,844 performances, becoming the longest-running musical on Broadway at the time. He won 10 Tonys and was revived several times, most recently in 2017 with Bette Midler in the title role, a widow of the 19th century who learns to live again.
“Mame” followed in 1966, with Angela Lansbury, and continued to run for over 1,500 performances. She presented him with his Tony Special Prize for all of his achievements in 2009, claiming that he had created songs like him: “bouncy, dynamic and optimistic”.
In 1983, he had another success with “La Cage aux Folles”, a gently radical musical of his time, decades before the struggle for equality in marriage. It was a sumptuous adaptation of the successful French film about two gay men who own a splashy and drag nightclub on the Riviera. It contained the gay anthem “I am what I am” and worked for approximately 1,760 performances. Three of his shows, “Dear World”, “The Grand Tour” and “Mack and Mabel”, failed on Broadway.
Many of his songs have survived their vehicles: British skaters Torvill and Dean used the opening of “Mack and Mabel” to accompany a gold medal routine in 1982. Writer-director Andrew Stanton used Herman tunes “Put on your Sunday clothes” And “It only takes a moment” to express the psyche of a hungry robot and trash compactor in the film “WALL-E”.
Later in life, Herman composed a song for “Barney’s Great Adventure”, contributed the score for the 1996 film for “TV” Santa Claus “- which earned Herman an Emmy nomination – and wrote his autobiography, “Showtune”, published by Donald I. Fine.
He is survived by his partner, Marler, and his godchildren – Dorian and his own daughter, Sarah Haspel. Dorian said plans for a memorial service are still being prepared for the man she said the songs “are always on our lips and in our hearts.”
PA journalists Lynn Elber in Los Angeles and Mallika Sen in New York contributed to this report.